Four baboons used a barrel to escape from a research facility in Texas on the weekend, as startled motorists took video of the primates running alongside a road.
- The four baboons were captured within 20-30 minutes of escaping the enclosure
- The research facility has since removed the barrels
- A spokesperson for the facility said it was "truly a unique incident"
Texas Biomedical Research Institute officials said three of the baboons were captured within 30 minutes after they escaped from their enclosure and got beyond a perimeter fence.
A fourth baboon was captured after it led researchers on a wild goose chase down a busy road.
Eyewitness Janelle Bouton was on her way to the local supermarket when she saw the incident unfold.
Ms Bouton told a local television station she saw people in medical masks chasing after the primate which she first thought was a large dog.
"The baboon stopped at one point and he was just looking, and then it darted into the bushes and these guys are frazzled and they are freaking out," Ms Bouton told KSAT-TV.
"You could tell that [the workers] were panicking because they didn't want him [the animal] to get hurt because they were trying their best to quarantine him … but he wasn't having it."
The animal care team determined the baboons rolled a barrel upright near a wall of their open-air enclosure, then climbed it, which allowed them to escape.
The barrel was put in the enclosure because the animal team deemed it an enrichment tool that helped baboons mimic foraging behaviour, the research facility said in a statement.
The research facility has since made changes to the enclosure to prevent a repeated incident.
"Upon noticing the animals on top of the enclosure, our animal care team immediately removed the barrels from the enclosure and alerted the animal capture team," the centre said.
The centre said the immediate concern was for the safety of the animals, the institution's staff and the residents in the surrounding areas.
"This was truly a unique incident," Lisa Cruz, assistant vice-president for communications, said.
The research institute houses more than 2,500 animals. Scientists conduct research on the animals to help develop new vaccines and medicines.